Lost in the Sauce: Feb. 16 – 22

Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater.

Two important things:

FIRST, the headings will guide you through this piece. The Main Course covers the “big” stories and The Sides covers the “smaller” stories.

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Let’s dig in!

MAIN COURSE

Trump’s war on the intelligence community: 10 days under an authoritarian administration

I wrote a stand-alone piece covering the biggest news from last week: Over the past 10 days, we’ve seen Trump fully indulge his authoritarian impulses in an attempt to stamp out any inkling of facts that he dislikes – whether that be for personal, egocentric reasons or to shore up political strength. This began with a briefing given to the House Intelligence Committee that Russia is seeking to re-elect Trump. In response, Trump purged the Office of the Director of National Intelligence of officials he perceived to be disloyal, installing loyalists in their place.

Also covered: how Trump gets away with a cabinet full of acting officials, Richard Grenell’s numerous dis-qualifications, a pardon offered to Julian Assange, and the hunt for “Never Trumpers” in the administration.

Sunday night update

On Sunday, Trump made a veiled threat toward House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff while claiming without evidence that the Democrat had leaked information from the Russia briefing on Feb. 13: “Somebody please tell incompetent (thanks for my high poll numbers) & corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff to stop leaking Classified information or, even worse, made up information, to the Fake News Media. Someday he will be caught, & that will be a very unpleasant experience!” tweet

Later, while speaking to reporters, Trump called for an investigation into the leak – more concerned about the public learning of the briefing than he is about Russia’s repeated interference in U.S. elections. “They leaked it, Adam Schiff and his group. They leaked it to the papers and – as usual – they ought to investigate Adam Schiff for leaking that information,” Trump said.

Schiff responded: “Nice deflection, Mr. President. But your false claims fool no one. You welcomed Russian help in 2016, tried to coerce Ukraine’s help in 2019, and won’t protect our elections in 2020.”

Pardon-palooza

Authoritarians also dispense largesse, but they do it by their own whims, rather than pursuant to any system or legal rule. The point of authoritarianism is to concentrate power in the ruler, so the world knows that all actions, good and bad, harsh and generous, come from a single source. (The New Yorker)

Last week, Trump granted pardons and commutations to 11 people with one thing in common: connections. Trump bypassed the process of formal procedures typically used to determine who is given a pardon, instead relying on connections to his wealthy friends and political allies.

  • Former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of soliciting bribes from candidates to replace Barack Obama in the Senate after Obama was elected president, knew Trump personally from his appearance on The Celebrity Apprentice. Trump falsely claimed that former FBI Director James Comey was involved in Blagojevich’s prosecution; Comey did not take over at the FBI until years after the Blagojevich case.
    • Illinois’ entire GOP congressional delegation—Darin LaHood, John Shimkus, Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis, and Mike Bost: “Blagojevich is the face of public corruption in Illinois, and not once has he shown any remorse for his clear and documented record of egregious crimes that undermined the trust placed in him by voters…Blagojevich is the face of public corruption in Illinois, and not once has he shown any remorse for his clear and documented record of egregious crimes that undermined the trust placed in him by voters.” (source)
  • Former San Francisco 49ers team owner Eddie DeBartolo, who was convicted of “failing to report a felony” in 1998 after he paid a $400,000 bribe for a casino license, was pardoned as a result of the lobbying of New England Patriots owner and frequent Mar-a-Lago guest Robert Kraft.
  • Michael Milken, the so-called junk bond king who was convicted in 1990 of securities and tax fraud, knew Trump personally and frequently spent time with him at Mar-a-Lago. In his first memoir, Trump called Milken “a brilliant guy.” Many of Trump’s inner circle also lobbied for a pardon for Milken, including Rudy Giuliani, Jared Kushner, Steven Mnuchin, and developer friends Howard Lorber and Richard LeFrak. In fact, last year Mnuchin “flew on Mr. Milken’s private jet from Washington to Los Angeles and helped secure a real estate tax break that could benefit Mr. Milken.” A key backer of Milken’s pardon, hedge fund manager (and executive of Wendy’s) Nelson Peltz, held a record-breaking fundraiser for Trump’s re-election campaign at his home just 3 days before Milken was pardoned.
    • John K. Carroll: “As one of the lead prosecutors on the Milken case, I am outraged — not at the specific result here but at what the pardon process says about the way justice is served in our country…What outrages me, and what I think should outrage others, is the process that brought about the pardon. In as guileless an admission as I have ever seen of rich man’s justice, the White House bolstered its decision by listing a murderer’s row of Republican donors and billionaires who provided “widespread and long-standing” support for Milken’s pardon. Sheldon Adelson, Tom Barrack, my old boss Giuliani and others are listed as supporters of the pardon. If I had to prove that the scales of justice tilt toward the rich, I would offer that list and then sit down and wait for the jury to convict.”
  • Former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik, who was convicted in 2009 of lying to federal investigators and committing tax fraud, knew Trump personally and had Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera sign a letter on his behalf requesting a pardon from the president. In 2004, Trump called Kerik “a friend of mine” and “a great guy.” Rudy Giuliani also supported the request, as Kerik once served as a senior vice president at Giuliani Partners.
    • “The pardon cancels out $103,300 in restitution that Kerik still owed the Internal Revenue Service as part of his sentence, according to a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.” (source)
  • Paul Pogue, a construction company owner who pleaded guilty to underpaying his taxes by $473,000, did not know Trump and did not have any Fox News personalities lobby on his behalf. Instead, Pogue’s family appears to have purchased a presidential pardon. Pogue’s son and daughter-in-law made over $200,000 in contributions to the Trump Victory Committee last year. The couple also made several large donations to the Republican National Committee and each donated $5,600 to Donald Trump for President Inc.,” according to FEC filings.

Roger Stone going to prison

Perhaps not coincidentally, Trump’s pardoning of corrupt public officials like Blagojevich occurred just two days before Roger Stone’s sentencing for lying to investigators, obstructing a congressional investigation, and witness tampering. Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Stone to 40 months – or 3.3 years – in prison, much lighter than the original 7-9 year sentencing recommendation made by career prosecutors who withdrew from the case in protest of AG Barr’s intervention.

Judge Jackson pushes back

Lawfare has a great line-by-line breakdown of the sentencing hearing, if you’d like the nitty-gritty details. But if you only have time to read one excerpt from the hearing, I suggest the following:

Judge Jackson: “The truth still exists. The truth still matters. Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy…The dismay and the disgust at the attempts by others to defend his actions as just business as usual in our polarized climate should transcend party. The dismay and the disgust with any attempts to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party.

“Sure, the defense is free to say: So what? Who cares? But, I’ll say this: Congress cared. The United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia that prosecuted the case and is still prosecuting the case cared. The jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances cared. The American people cared. And I care.”

During the hearing, Judge Jackson said that the jurors in the case “served with integrity.” Stone’s lawyers took this statement and moved to disqualify the judge from the case, claiming that her remarks “rendered her unable to fairly rule on his bid for a new trial.”

“Stone’s Motion for New Trial is directly related to the integrity of a juror. It is alleged that a juror misled the Court regarding her ability to be unbiased and fair and the juror attempted to cover up evidence that would directly contradict her false claims of impartiality,” his lawyers argued.

“The premature statement blessing the “integrity of the jury” undermines the appearance of impartiality and presents a strong bias for recusal,” they added.

As expected, Jackson denied the motion to have her disqualified.

A pardon for Stone?

But the goal may be to reach the ears of the president instead. According to Politico, a former senior administration official who remains in contact with Trump and his senior advisers says about a pardon for Roger Stone: “It’s not a question of if; it’s when.” Following the sentencing, Trump argued that Stone’s jury was “tainted” and said that “Roger has a very good chance of exoneration.”

On Sunday, Trump was asked about the possibility of a pardon for Stone and instead took the opportunity to attack the jury forewoman, again:

“That juror is so biased and so tainted, that shouldn’t happen in our criminal justice system… You have a juror that is obviously tainted. She was an activist against Trump. She said bad things about Trump and bad things about Stone,” the President claimed without evidence. “She somehow weaseled her way onto the jury and if that’s not a tainted jury then there is no such thing as a tainted jury.”

More info on Stone’s lenient sentence

In the week since four prosecutors withdrew from Stone’s case in protest of AG Barr’s interference, we have gotten a slow drip-drip of new information. A piece by The New York Times Sunday summed it up nicely: Timothy Shea, appointed to replace Jessie Liu as head D.C. attorney, was sent to the office specifically to steer cases to the president’s benefit after previous efforts failed.

A new boss, Timothy Shea, had just arrived and had told them on his first day that he wanted a more lenient recommendation for Mr. Stone, and he pushed back hard when they objected, according to two people briefed on the dispute. They grew suspicious that Mr. Shea was helping his longtime friend and boss, Attorney General William P. Barr, soften the sentencing request to please the president.

…The tensions between the office, the Justice Department and the White House date back further than the tumult in the Stone case. They have been simmering since at least last summer, when the office’s investigation of Andrew G. McCabe, a former top F.B.I. official whom the president had long targeted, began to fall apart.

Mr. Shea’s predecessor, Jessie K. Liu, a lawyer whom Mr. Trump had appointed to lead the office in 2017, pressed the McCabe case even after one team of prosecutors concluded that they could not win a conviction. After a second team was brought in and also failed to deliver a grand jury indictment, Ms. Liu’s relationship with Mr. Barr grew strained, people close to them said. She left the position this year, though she and Mr. Barr have both stressed to associates that her departure was amicable.

Undoing Mueller’s work

Trump’s efforts to derail the sentencing of Stone can be seen as part of a larger campaign to rewrite history, and specifically, erase the findings of the Mueller investigation. Roger Stone’s indictment shows that Stone was acting on Trump’s personal order to find Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails stolen by Russia. In order to cover-up his role in the Russia-Wikileaks-Trump network, Stone lied to investigators and threatened a witness. By claiming that Stone did not commit a crime, Trump is attempting to reverse the findings of the Mueller report and make himself the victim.

Last week, Trump embarked on a rambling Twitter thread calling for all cases stemming from Mueller’s probe to be “thrown out.” He continued, saying: “If I wasn’t President, I’d be suing everyone all over the place…….BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL. WITCH HUNT!”

Hours later, while discussing the spate of pardons he had issued that day, Trump made the astounding assertion that he is “the chief law enforcement officer of the country” and thus has the “legal right” to interfere in criminal cases. “I’m allowed to be totally involved,” the president added. While technically he is incorrect – the Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer – in practice Trump has been proven right. A lawless chief executive is in fact in charge of enforcing the law when the Attorney General acts as his personal fixer.

This is in the style of autocrats across the globe, who weaponize the law to help themselves and their friends and hurt their enemies. The nation’s legal system is now run by a man who has spent his life mocking it. (NYT Editorial Board)

Meanwhile, the president’s allies have reportedly been urging him to fire anyone who was involved in Mueller’s investigation:

The MAGA punditry’s outsized influence over the president means their campaign against the so-called Mueller “holdovers” is likely not falling on deaf ears, especially given Trump’s fixation with what his defenders and detractors are saying about his administration in their frequent appearances on his favorite TV programs.

“It’s totally unclear to me why any members of the Mueller team need to remain in the Trump DOJ,” the pro-Trump conservative blogger Will Chamberlain wrote after news broke of the Stone sentencing recommendation.

…GOP operative Arthur Schwartz, a close friend of Donald Trump Jr. who has been described as the eldest son’s “fixer,” said of the career officials in question: “I think they should all be investigated.”

…John Dowd, a former Trump lawyer who remains in touch with the White House, characterized the line attorneys in the Stone case as “insubordinate,” and “the same crowd of prosecutors wedded to the Mueller agenda” who need to be “cleaned out” from DOJ. “And Bill Barr is doing that,” Dowd said.

What can be done about the politicization of the DOJ? In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School suggests that “Congress should transform the Justice Department into an independent agency, legally immunized from the president’s day-to-day control.”

Public charge rule takes effect

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow the government to implement new “wealth test” rules making it easier to deny immigrants residency or admission to the United States if they might depend on public-assistance programs. Legal challenges will continue in lower courts in the meantime. Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless Immigration who formerly worked on immigration policy in the Obama White House, estimates that as many as 400,000 people every year could be denied green cards or visas because of the new rules.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a written dissent that was sharply critical of both the federal government and her conservative colleagues, warning that they are “putting a thumb on the scale in favor of” the Trump administration. Read her full seven-page dissent here.

The justice wrote that granting emergency applications often upends “the normal appellate process” while “putting a thumb on the scale in favor of the party that won.” Targeting her conservative colleagues, she said “most troublingly, the Court’s recent behavior” has benefited “one litigant over all others.”

“Claiming one emergency after another, the Government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases,” Sotomayor said. “It is hard to say what is more troubling,” she said, pointing to the case at hand, “that the Government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it.” CNN


THE SIDES

Justice Department’s new rules benefit Giuliani

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, the DOJ indicated that the agency has implemented another layer of approval that would make it difficult for prosecutors to widen their probe into Rudy Giuliani:

The Justice Department revealed Tuesday that law enforcement officials running Ukraine-related investigations must seek approval before expanding their inquiries — a move that could have implications for Rudolph W. Giuliani, as President Trump’s personal attorney pushes for scrutiny of the president’s political foes while facing a federal probe into his own conduct.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote to Nadler that the department had tapped two U.S. attorneys to assist in the process — Scott Brady in Pittsburgh to receive and assess new information, and Richard Donoghue in Brooklyn to help coordinate personnel throughout the Justice Department involved in Giuliani’s case and others with a focus on Ukraine. An accompanying internal memo, circulated by Rosen in January, says that he and Donoghue must approve expansions of any inquiries.

Related: The Hill admits John Solomon’s columns were misleading

The Hill’s review of Solomon’s work can be found here. I have found the review itself to be overly generous to the publication (no surprise), so I will quote from a WaPo summary of the review:

In effect, the Hill said Solomon amplified an inaccurate and one-sided narrative about the Bidens and Ukraine that was fed to him by Giuliani, “facilitated” by businessman Lev Parnas, who was working with Giuliani at the time, and reinforced by Solomon’s own attorneys, who also represented clients embroiled in U.S.-Ukraine politics.

But the Hill stopped short of retracting or apologizing for Solomon’s articles, nor did it say it shouldn’t have published them. It also didn’t characterize Solomon’s motives in presenting what appears to be a largely debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine.

“In certain columns, Solomon failed to identify important details about key Ukrainian sources, including the fact that they had been indicted or were under investigation,” said the internal investigation, which was overseen by the newspaper’s editor, Bob Cusack. “In other cases, the sources were [Solomon’s] own attorneys” — Victoria Toensing and Joseph DiGenova, who have also represented President Trump and Giuliani, who was also a key source for Solomon’s columns.

Solomon didn’t disclose this connection in his columns nor did he disclose to his editors that he shared drafts of his stories with Toensing, DiGenova and Parnas, the review noted.

Trump tries to block Bolton book

The Washington Post reports that Trump is attempting to block the release of former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s book, instructing aides that it should not be released until after the November election.

Trump has told his lawyers that Bolton should not be allowed to publish any of his interactions with him about national security because they are privileged and classified, these people said. He has also repeatedly brought up the book with his team, asking whether Bolton is going to be able to publish it, they said.

Trump told national television anchors on Feb. 4 during an off-the-record lunch that material in the book was “highly classified,” according to notes from one participant in the luncheon. He then called him a “traitor.”

“We’re going to try and block the publication of the book,” Trump said, according to the notes. “After I leave office, he can do this. But not in the White House…I give the guy a break. I give him a job. And then he turns on me,” Trump added during the West Wing lunch. “He’s just making things up.”

Susan Rice tells Bolton the truth

During a panel discussion at Vanderbilt University on Wednesday, Bolton shared the stage with Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice. Bolton made excuses for his failure to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial, blaming the House for committing “impeachment malpractice.” Rice challenged Bolton repeatedly, denigrating his decision to promote his book instead of testify:

“I thought a lot about if I had been in that position how would I have approached it, and I’ll be honest: It’s inconceivable to me that if I had firsthand knowledge of gross abuse of presidential power that I would withhold my testimony from a constitutional accountability process.”

“I can’t imagine withholding my testimony, with or without a subpoena,” Rice said. “I also can’t imagine, frankly, in the absence of being able to provide the information directly to Congress, not having exercised my First Amendment right to speak publicly at a time when my testimony or my experience would be relevant. And, frankly, when my subordinates … were doing their duty and responding in a fashion consistent with their legal obligations to provide information.”

“I would feel like I was shamefully violating the oath that I took to support and defend the Constitution.”

Trump corruption update

President Donald Trump’s choice to stay at his own Las Vegas hotel each night during the western states swing that wraps up Friday likely cost taxpayers a million extra dollars as well as diverted thousands of them into his own cash registers.

Breaking with precedent, Trump flew back to Vegas to stay every night at his Trump International Hotel, despite his day activities taking place in California, Arizona, and Colorado.

Had Trump held the same events but done so in a geographically logical order ― starting in Beverly Hills and finishing in Colorado Springs, but overnighting each day in the city where he would begin the following morning ― Trump would have spent four fewer hours aboard Air Force One, thereby saving taxpayers about $1.1 million.

…Indeed, the repeated overnight trips to Las Vegas may have forced the Secret Service and other support personnel to keep a motorcade there for a full four days, rather than move it to the site of an upcoming presidential trip

This week, Trump has a whole new country to focus on: India, home to the largest portfolio of Trump real estate projects outside North America, according to the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. According to The Washington Post, since the elder Trump’s last trip to India in 2014, two of his business partners have encountered massive legal and financial trouble.

During Trump’s time as president, the Trump Organization has vigorously promoted their properties in India, earning millions of dollars in royalties:

In 2018, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. — who runs the Trump Organization with his brother, Eric Trump — spent several days in India promoting the family’s developments, attending a champagne dinner with condo buyers who plunked down $39,000 deposits and bringing in millions of dollars in new sales. While there, he also met with Modi behind closed doors. The next year, Trump’s Indian business partners flew 100 early buyers of his luxury condos near Delhi to visit Trump Tower and Trump Ferry Point golf course in New York City as a way to generate interest in the properties in India. One attendee gushed afterward about meeting the son of a U.S. president on the trip.

Trump 2020: Cambridge Analytica and Facebook

President Donald Trump’s campaign is bringing on an alum of the controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica…Matt Oczkowski, who served as head of product at Cambridge before it went bankrupt and shut down in 2018, is helping oversee the Trump campaign’s data program…Oczkowski, who also worked on Trump’s 2016 effort, joined the reelection campaign in January, and payments to his company, HuMn Behavior, are expected to show up on Trump’s next campaign finance disclosure later this month. (Politico)

An Axios report revealed where most of Trump’s re-election campaign is spending its advertising budget: on Facebook ads. “Last fall, the campaign urged Facebook to keep the same tools for political advertisers that they make available to companies…Facebook ultimately decided not to change its policies around microtargeting.” However, unlike in 2016, the campaign is also diversifying, “testing new strategies on several dozen platforms, including YouTube, Google, ad exchanges, publisher networks and conservative podcasts.”

  • Side note: The IRS is suing Facebook for $9 million in back taxes, alleging the social media company undervalued intellectual properties when selling them to an Irish subsidiary in 2010. Ireland has lower corporate tax rates than the United States, so the move reduced the company’s tax bill.

Erik Prince investigations

There is apparently another investigation into Blackwater Founder – and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos – Erik Prince. The FBI is reportedly investigating Prince “for his 2015 attempt to modify two American-made crop-dusting planes into attack aircraft — a violation of arms trafficking regulations…The planes became part of private military services Prince proposed to sell or use in mercenary operations in Africa and Azerbaijan.”

This new investigation adds to Prince’s legal problems, though he insists that he is untouchable “under this guy,” referring to Trump. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Justice Department is “in the late stages of deciding whether to charge” Prince for allegedly lying to Congress in its Russia probe and violating U.S. export laws in his business dealings overseas.

Trump blocking prominent climate change warning

The United States is against mentioning climate change in the communique of the world’s financial leaders, G20 diplomats said, after a new draft of the joint statement showed the G20 are considering including it as a risk factor to growth…G20 sources said the United States was reluctant to accept language on climate change as a risk to the economy. Reuters

On Sunday, it was announced that the U.S. ultimately agreed to a less-prominent placement for the risks of climate change. It will now appear in language referencing the Financial Stability Board’s work examining the implications of climate change for financial stability.

One of the G20 sources said it was the first time a reference to climate change had been included in a G20 finance communique during Trump’s presidency, even though it was removed from the top of the joint statement. U.S. officials have resisted naming climate change as an economic risk since Trump took office in 2017. One of his first acts as president was to announce Washington’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

Rightwing threats

Last week, two men were arrested in separate incidents involving threats to President Trump’s perceived opponents.

A Michigan man, Brittan J. Atkinson, was arrested on Thursday for sending death threats to Mark Zaid, an attorney for the Ukraine whistleblower. Atkinson sent the threats in November, on the day that Trump held up a photo of Zaid and read some of his tweets at a rally in Louisiana.

“All traitors must die miserable deaths,” Atkinson’s email read in part, the indictment says. “Those that represent traitors shall meet the same fate[.] We will hunt you down and bleed you out like the pigs you are. We have nothing but time, and you are running out of it, Keep looking over your shoulder[.] We know who you are, where you live, and who you associate with[.] We are all strangers in a crowd to you[.]”

On Wednesday, Salvatore Lippa of New York was arrested for threatening to assault and murder Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Chuck Schumer in voicemails last month.

Lippa started the threatening message by calling the congressman “Schiff, Shifty Schiff,” invoking the nickname used by President Donald Trump for Schiff, the lead House manager during Trump’s impeachment trial.

…When questioned by U.S Capitol Police, Lippa admitted to making the threatening calls to Schiff and Schumer because he said he was upset about the impeachment proceedings, prosecutors said.

State news

  • Washington Post: A second court has temporarily blocked North Carolina’s new voter identification law on the argument that it discriminates against African Americans. The ruling reduces the likelihood that the rule will be in effect in a key swing state during November’s elections. A three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that intent to discriminate was a “primary motivating factor” behind the voter ID law, which passed the Republican legislature in late 2018.
  • CBS News: Florida cannot bar felons who served their time from registering to vote simply because they have failed to pay all fines and fees stemming from their cases, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
  • CNN: Mississippi’s law banning abortions at the detection of a fetal heartbeat — as early as six weeks into pregnancy — will remain blocked, a panel of circuit judges ruled on Thursday…The three-judge panel on the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the Mississippi law unconstitutionally prohibited pre-viability abortions.
  • Tampa Bay Times: A curious request arrived in the inboxes of Florida tax collectors last week from an employee of the Republican National Committee. He asked for “all email addresses that have been collected and are in the possession of the Tax Collector’s Office.” He also wanted any names, property addresses and phone numbers connected to those emails in their records. If the tax collectors had complied, the Republican Party would soon have a valuable trove of personal information for millions of Floridians as it gears up for the 2020 election: A detailed database of many taxpayers’ emails plus the name, address and phone number tied to that email.
  • Associated Press: Most Republican lawmakers refused to attend a Tuesday night session of the Oregon House of Representatives amid a slowdown over anger at a sweeping bill on climate change. Earlier, Republican lawmakers, who are a minority in the House, insisted that bills coming to the floor be read in their entirety instead of being summarized, which slowed things down substantially. The 2020 session of the Legislature lasts only 35 days, being an even-year short session.
  • Q13 Fox News: Efforts to expel a controversial state representative from the Washington Legislature are likely over after no Republicans would sign a letter calling for state Rep. Matt Shea’s expulsion. The Spokesman-Review reports that all 98 members of the state House of Representatives were asked Thursday to sign a letter calling for the expulsion of Spokane Valley Republican. All 56 Democrats signed the letter, but no Republicans did.

Immigration news

  • Associated Press: The Trump administration said Tuesday that it is waiving federal contracting laws to speed construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border…allow[ing] 177 miles (283 kilometers) of wall to be built more quickly in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
    • Slate: In less than three years, Trump’s Department of Homeland Security has relied on a single federal law, the Real ID Act of 2005, to push aside nearly 50 statutes to put up portions of a border wall….Since Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April 2019, this authority has been exercised by acting secretaries, who did not obtain Senate confirmation to lead the agency. Chad Wolf, the current acting secretary, is thus allowed to set aside any law enacted by the people’s representatives despite never being confirmed to his position by the people’s representatives.
  • NBC News: A Mexican man who was shot in the face by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent during an arrest in New York this month filed a federal lawsuit against the officer Wednesday. Erick Diaz Cruz was shot “in the face at point-blank range” on Feb. 6 while visiting his mother at her house in Brooklyn when immigration officers came to arrest her partner, according to the lawsuit.
  • NBC News: A Mexican man died by an apparent suicide in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Ohio, the agency said in a statement Friday. The death is the seventh to occur in ICE’s custody since the fiscal year began in October. Eight people died in ICE custody in all of fiscal year 2019.
  • Associated Press: A U.S. judge in Arizona sided Wednesday with migrants who have long-complained about inhumane and unsanitary conditions in some U.S. Border Patrol facilities in the state… [The order requires] the Tucson Sector to provide clean mats and thin blankets to migrants held for longer than 12 hours and to allow them to clean themselves. It also bars the agency from holding migrants more than 48 hours if they’ve been fully processed…Bury is also banning the use of bathrooms for sleeping, which came to light during the trial this year.
  • CNN: Greyhound will not allow US Customs and Border Protection agents to conduct searches on its buses without warrants, the company announced…Friday’s announcement came a week after the Associated Press reported on an internal Customs and Border Protection memo that said Border Patrol agents must have consent from the company to conduct searches.
  • The Washington Post: To bolster its policy of stepped up enforcement, the administration is requiring that notes taken during mandatory therapy sessions with immigrant children be passed onto ICE, which can then use those reports against minors in court. Intimate confessions, early traumas, half-remembered nightmares — all have been turned into prosecutorial weapons, often without the consent of the therapists involved, and always without the consent of the minors themselves, in hearings where the stakes can be life and death.
  • USA Today: U.S. immigration agents arrested two people at a Northern California courthouse, flouting a new state law requiring a judicial warrant to make immigration arrests inside such facilities. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made the arrests Tuesday at Sonoma County Superior Court, prompting an outcry from criminal justice and court officials who said the action undermines local authority and deters immigrants who are in the country illegally from participating in the U.S. justice system. The agents had no warrants.
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